Sticking with the recent Juice Crew theme, today’s review is on Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s sophomore album Wanted: Dead Or Alive.
If you haven’t already, check out my opinion of their debutRoad To The Riches; but for those of you too lazy to read that review (or just don’t care what my opinion is of the album) here is a quick recap: G. Rap was a beast on the mic but the production was inconsistent. G. Rap must have realized this as well as Marley Marl (along with Dr. Butcher) who handled the bulk of the production duties on Road To The Riches, are benched (with the exception of one song) in place of a young up and coming producer, Large Professor (and some dude named Anton) to handle most of the production load on Wanted: Dead Or Alive.
There’s no question G. Rap has what it takes on the mic, but will Extra P’s production bring the musical consistency missing from G. Rap and Polo’s first go round?
Streets Of New York – Over two verses G Rap paints visuals of what takes place on the New York streets he’s accustom to. The Large Professor produced instrumental is dope (especially the saxophone at the beginning and the piano sprinkled throughout the song). Nice start to the evening.
Wanted Dead Or Alive – G. Raps in straight gangster mode on this one: he spends all three verses killing rivals or at minimum sending them violent threats; which I have to admit, some of them made me chuckle (not chuckling because their corny but more of an acknowledgement G Rap clever wordplay and wit). The Large Professor instrumental could have used a little more Lawrys, though. As is, it’s pretty bland.
Money In The Bank – Extra P provides a beauty of an instrumental for this posse cut; so it’s only right that he sets things off and in the process rips the hell out of his own beat. Freddie Foxxx (who you younger readers may know as Bumpy Knuckles) and Kool G Rap follow with solid verses, while Cold Chillin’ roadie, Ant-Live wraps things up with a mediocre performance. Minus the Ant-Live verse this was a pretty entertaining listen.
Bad To The Bone – Eric B and G Rap are given co-producer credits but it aint hard to tell this instrumental is all Extra P. G Rap completely annihilates the simple but bangin’ instrumental with his heavily lisped delivery. G Rap’s reference of Video Soul was a blast from the past. I see you Donnie Simpson.
Talk Like Sex – The title sums it up in a nutshell: G rap spits hilariously misogynistic rhymes over a funky instrumental that the liner notes credit him as producing as well. This one is filled with clever punchline after punchline (the lines about Issac Hayes’ head and G Rap’s “hip-hop cock” are hi-larious). Wait, did he really just say “gooder and gooder”? Despite that embarrassing terrible grammar moment this was enjoyable, in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
Play It Again Polo – Large Professor provides a fairly decent instrumental for G to murder as he kindly leaves the hook for Polo to work the ones and twos over. Like myself, you may need to listen to this one twice: G Rap is lyrically that sick on this one.
Erase Racism – G Rap invites fellow Juice Crew members Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane to assist on this one. Kool G and Kane provide the verses leaving Biz to sing the hook and add a few words at the end. I never really cared for this song but Cool V’s (Biz Markie’s cousin and deejay) instrumental sounds a lot better today than I remember it sounding back in the day; and although G Rap and Kane both sound better spitting battle rhymes they still sound decent when they bring their “conscious rhymes” as well.
Kool Is Back – Is it just me or does this instrumental bear a striking resemblance to the one used on “Play It Again Polo”(I know they were produced by the same man, but geez)? Thankfully, Extra P changes up the drums just enough and scatters a sinister sample in every few bars giving it a rough feel that matches perfectly with G Rap rough flow on this one verse wonder. I’ll say it again: G Rap is a beast on the mic.
Play It Kool – G Raps slows the pace down a bit, proving no matter what the beat’s bmp count is he can rip it. Though the liner notes give credit to Large Professor for the instrumental, at one point is sounds as if G Rap is giving Dr. Butcher credit for the instrumental (or he just coincidentally decided to shout out Butcher’s great musicianship on this song). Either way, the smooth mid-tempo instrumental was nice as well as G Raps contribution.
Death Wish – The instrumental reminds me of the one used on Intelligent Hoodlum’s “Arrest The President” (which Large Professor also produced, so it’s not much of a coincidence), only more eerie and entertaining. Again, G Rap is in peak condition as he runs laps around this track (love the line about the Red Coats).
Jive Talk – Polo and some dude named Anton (again) share production credit on this one. G Rap murders the first verse, then after an extended break (that he uses to give shoutouts over), steps back to the mic and along with his crew form a cipher in the booth. G Rap then resurrects the instrumental just to kill it again, before his homie tries to draw more blood out of it with a verse that obviously didn’t impress Rap and Polo, since they decided to fade it out in the edit.
The Polo Club – Polo’s solo joint. I mean, he was the other half of the group.
Rikers Island – Marley Marl gets his only production credit of the evening on the album’s final song. This is G Rap’s ode to one of the most notorious penitentiaries in the world. This was obviously recorded way before the rest of the material on Wanted: Dead Or Alive, as G Rap’s flow sounds very undefined compared to the rest of his spit on the album; and Marley’s instrumental sounds like something from the early to mid eighties. Not sure why they felt the need to tack this song on to the album.
When I looked at the liner notes and noticed Large Professor was credited with handling the majority of the production on Wanted: Dead Or Alive I was excited to hear G. Rap’s paintings over Extra P’s canvases. While none of Extra P instrumentals completely sucked, only a few are really good, leaving the majority of them stuck somewhere in between decent and aight, which was disappointing for me since I hold him in such high regards as a producer. Thankfully, G Rap’s rhymes are to instrumentals what yoga pants are to a woman’s ass: he can take an average naked one and make it look (sound) bomb when he’s on it. Wanted: Dead Or Alive is a solid album, I was just expecting so much more.